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UNICEF Georgia: Older children use youngsters to avoid criminal prosecution

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, July 25
The most recent research of the UNICEF Georgia speaks about hard socioeconomic situation in Georgia.

The research reveals that some groups of children stick together in order to protect each other, to find places to sleep, to create spaces for leisure and entertainment, to cultivate friendship, and to cooperate in economic activities like petty trading, street begging, and petty crime.

“Other groups of children have internal structures that divide them into seniors/superiors and subordinates. Older teenagers tend to use children under 14 (subordinate children) as ‘shields’ to avoid criminal prosecution, pushing them to carry out criminal activities and hand over the profits,” the UNICEF Georgia reads.

The survey says that there is a sect-like group in Tbilisi (known as the Morgue children) which is territorially located in an underground area.

“These groups may be small or large. Their organization has a territorial aspect, with groups attempting to control parts of towns or neighborhoods in order to control economic opportunities (petty trading, begging, etc.). There are occasionally clashes over controlling districts between these groups. As noted, internal codes of conduct and ties of dependence may contribute to the perpetuation of street lifestyles over time and are potentially a source of recruitment into criminal activity and violence,” the report reads.

UNICEF says that there does not seem to be a coordinated effort from police or city authorities to address the criminal activities of gangs.

The research reads that children who work and live on the streets are particularly vulnerable to violence from adults as well as from fellow street youth.

“There is a need to expand response mechanisms, but it is equally important to prevent children from ending up in the streets through developing stronger protection mechanisms and conducting systemic changes,” Laila O. Gad, UNICEF Representative in Georgia.

The survey reads that poverty, violence in families, and parents’ migration are major contributing factors.

“There is also a need to increase geographical coverage of the existing services and establish new services in Adjara. Special approaches should be employed to reach out and address the needs of migrant children and their families,” the survey reads.

Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili says that it is complicated to use younger children as shields in the case of committing crimes, as the Interior Ministry is carrying out “comprehensive investigation” of such cases.

Mezvrishvili added that in the coming days Interior Ministry will present a draft about punishment of children under 14 in case of committing a crime.